Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wireless & Powerline Controls: View From the Channel

Wireless & powerline control technologies have been around for years; adoption among home systems integrators has been limited. What’s the outlook for 2008?

by Bill Ablondi, Director, Home Systems Research, Parks Associates

Whole-home control systems are typically found in high-end, new homes – detached single-family homes and multiple dwelling units (condos, co-ops, and apartments). In a good year for homes, builders start 1.2 to 1.5 million homes, with about 300,000 in MDUs. In a good year. The past year was not a good year for homebuilding, and prospects are not looking good for another couple of years. Therefore, what about the market for controls in existing homes … the other 100+ million?

The retrofit market has traditionally been a tough one to tackle. Installing control systems meant cutting holes in walls, pulling wires through tough-to-reach places, and, most importantly, keeping customers pleased during the disruption. Parks Associates and EH Publishing’s research of home systems integrators/installers has consistently indicated that about 50% of the typical home systems integrator’s revenues are generated from new construction; 50% from existing homes (retrofit projects). Our 4Q07 Channel Monitor survey revealed that the percentage for control systems is slightly weighted toward new homes (53%).

Based on these findings, one might conclude that there is considerable activity targeting the existing home market. However, consider the lopsided ratios: more than 99% of all homes in the U.S. are existing homes, not newly built, but existing homes account for only 47% of integrators’ control revenues. Further, Parks Associates’ consumer research indicates that fewer than 7% of all households have any form of electronic controls. Clearly there is an opportunity here. An opportunity, that is, if several conditions can be met: 1) there is demand for home controls, 2) they can be installed without a major disruption, and 3) the price is right.
Creating demand needs to be the sole subject of another article ; for now, the focus is on available solutions, in particular powerline and wireless control systems requiring no new wires to be pulled through walls.

Products incorporating Echelon’s LonWorks or PCS’s UPB powerline technologies, ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless technologies, or SmartLabs’ INSTEON powerline/wireless technology have been around for years. Many of these products are very affordable when compared to high-end home controls from AMX, Crestron, and Lutron. Are home systems integrators/installers aware of these technologies, and if so, what do they think about them with respect to their control projects?

These are some of the questions we posed to dealers in our 1Q07 and 1Q08 Channel Monitor surveys. First, are they aware of these technologies? Figure 1 compares results from these surveys for selected technologies. Awareness of ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless technologies has increased significantly; Z-Wave nearly doubled in awareness level over the period. These increases are not surprising given the marketing efforts from the alliances behind these technologies. UPB (Universal Powerline Bus) from PCS (Powerline Control Systems) scored high in familiarity on the 2008 survey and has been a favorite of some integrators as a complement to their wired control systems for several years.

Few dealers are very familiar with INSTEON, a dual-mesh, powerline/wireless technology from SmartLabs, and LonWorks from Echelon. INSTEON has been popular as a do-it-yourself (DIY) technology with products available on the SmartLabs’ SmartHome website. LonWorks is popular in commercial and MDU installations in Europe and Asia, but it has launched a Digital Home initiative aimed at residential markets. We expect to see awareness of HomePlug C&C to increase during 2008 as the HomePlug Powerline Alliance plans to approve the final specification in 3Q08.

We asked dealers, in addition to their awareness of the technologies, about their opinions on using these technologies in solutions for their customers. A common theme across all technologies was dealer uncertainty about the capabilities of these approaches. We think that the underlying cause of uncertainty is resistance to change. Dealers are familiar with traditional wired systems; change requires new learning and risks potential failure in some applications. New learning coupled with risk is a huge hurdle for any business to overcome.

Often new technological approaches are adopted by those seeking to differentiate their business and/or offerings from incumbents. The home systems integration channel is growing with entrepreneurs from the ranks of IT VARs, electrical contractors, and security dealers. In addition, the retail installer Geek Squad has said it is eyeing the market for control systems; other, similar firms are also interested.

The Bottom Line: there are more than a 100 million homes in the U.S. alone not taking advantage of the convenience and savings (energy & money) home controls offer. Affordable, retrofit-ready wireless and powerline controls are a couple of pieces to the puzzle that is the retrofit market.

This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PacketVideo Provides First End-to-End Music Service for Mobile and Broadband Access for Canada’s TELUS Mobility

The recent upgrade of TELUS’ mobile music service in Canada features a first for mobile customers – the ability to sideload protected music tracks from a personal computer (PC) to mass market Java phones. The PC software and Java music client on the phone were both developed by PacketVideo Corporation (PV) based on its patented SDC DRM digital rights management technology.

Rick Schwartz, Product Manager - Consumer Software, PacketVideo Corporation (PV) will speak at the Parks Associates Pre-Show Workshop at CONNECTIONS. Rick will be speaking on June 24th at 11:20 AM on the session, How Well is Home Networking Following the K.I.S.S. Rule of Thumb?

Other confirmed speakers on this session include:
John Gildred, President, SyncTV
Robert Rodenbucher, Director, Business Development, AwoX
Loren Shade, VP, Marketing, Allegro Software Development Corporation

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

JuiceCaster Nominated for Best Mobile Social Networking Solution in the 12th Annual Webby Awards: JuiceCaster a Finalist for ‘Oscars of the Internet’

The 12th Annual Webby Awards has nominated Juice Wireless’ mobile social networking application, JuiceCaster, for the Best Mobile Social Networking solution of 2008. The Webby Awards will announce the winners on May 6, 2008 and honor them at a star-studded gala in New York City on June 10. Additionally, from now through May 1, fans around the world can cast their votes for JuiceCaster in The Webby People’s Voice Awards presented by Nokia by visiting

JuiceCaster instantly connects users to their online lives. It enables easy, one-touch sharing of pictures and videos from a camera phone to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and additional online destinations. JuiceCaster has powerful integration to over 20 top online social networking and blogging sites. The latest version includes the ability for users to post and watch real-time video status updates directly on their phones. JuiceCaster members connect and communicate in a rich social-networking environment that includes profiles, pictures, videos, friend lists, comments, ratings and personal status updates, all on a mobile phone. JuiceCaster is made by Juice Wireless, Inc.

Nick Desai, CEO, Juice Wireless will speak at CONNECTIONS on June 25th at 2:30 PM on the session, MOBILE EVERYTHING: Mobile Platforms - Everything, Everywhere. Other confirmed speakers on this session include: Marc Goodman, Director, Alcatel-Lucent; Samir Khazaka, Senior Director, Technical Marketing, Qualcomm.

HP SmartHome Tour at CONNECTIONS™

HP is simplifying consumers’ digital dilemmas.

Attend CONNECTIONS™ and take a tour of the HP SmartHome, located on HP’s Cupertino Campus. The HP SmartHome is a real-life home that demonstrates an affordable and compelling digital experience that showcases how consumers can easily enjoy their favorite digital media and manage life conveniences with complete personalization, using a range of products that are readily available in the market today.

HP believes passionately in making it simple and easy for consumers to adopt a high-def lifestyle as well as manage it – and enable consumers to experience their movies, photos, music and videos, as well as a world of Internet entertainment whether they are at home or on the go.

The HP SmartHome is built on the fundamental belief of using open standards and has partnered with some of the biggest industry brands to deliver an end-to-end digital experience. From distributed audio to lighting control to intelligent appliances - everything is seamlessly and easily integrated in the house.

With the HPSmartHome, HP is showing consumers how easy it is to start living the digital life.

Pulse~LINK, Inc. Selected to Present its CWave® Ultra Wideband (UWB) Home Networking Solution

San Diego-based Pulse~LINK, Inc. has been selected to present its CWave® Ultra Wideband (UWB) home networking solution at the California Tech Showcase (CTS 2008), being held in conjunction with the World Investment Conference in La Baule, France.

Pulse~LINK pioneered the commercialization of UWB communications. Its award-winning CWave® UWB chipset is the world’s highest performing “no new wires” solution for networking High Definition entertainment devices throughout the home. Devices enabled with the Pulse~LINK CWave® UWB chipset allow multiple streams of HD video content, multi-channel audio and high-speed data located anywhere in the home to be shared across the existing coax backbone, in addition to wireless networking capabilities within each room with guaranteed Quality of Service.

Pulse~LINK is also speaking and a sponsor at CONNECTIONS on June 24th-26th in Santa Clara, CA. CONNECTIONS™: The Digital Living Conference and Showcase, hosted by leading research firm Parks Associates in partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®), is the premier executive event focused on the market developments and growth factors for advanced digital lifestyle solutions.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Industry Training and Certification: Building the Workforce to Service the Digital Home

Digital living is here – consumers have embraced electronics, and digital is ubiquitous in communication, documentation, entertainment, and everyday life. Homes are now wired extensively for multiroom audio, computer networks, surveillance cameras, security systems, home theater, and home control. Current sales and projections for digital home products and systems show double-digit growth. Today the challenge is, how do you know the company and technician performing installation and service work are qualified and performing the work correctly. The need for a qualified workforce to deliver the digital home is paramount.

For years many have predicted a plug-and-play world for installation of electronics. Products and interoperability have improved dramatically over the past decade, yet growth in technology is still faster than product enhancements, requiring installation and interconnection by trained and qualified technicians. The skill set required is different than that of the electrician, the traditional wire installer in the home. The professional contractors serving the home provide electrical, plumbing, and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). Now meet the fourth trade – the low voltage installer. The person performing this work in the field is called an electronic systems technician (EST). The advanced setup, programming, and ongoing support are delivered by a digital home technology integrator (DHTI), a trained and certified professional installing and servicing residential technology systems.

Training Resources
Opportunities for training in the fast-growing world of technologies for the digital home range from associations, industry events, education facilities, and training companies to manufacturers and publishers. With the complexity and options in many products offered today, and the integration of products with each other, manufacturers are offering more and more training. Manufacturer training opportunities have expanded from the traditional live presentations given at industry events, local distributors around the country, and road shows to include webinars and online courses. Technical schools are starting to offer training in technology for the home, incorporating online, classroom setting with lectures, and hands-on labs. Training companies offer industry materials and resources including online training and live workshops. Publishers are releasing books covering the different technologies, installation, programming, calibration, and troubleshooting, including industry certifications. Books are also available covering the business aspects of the industry such as design, sales, and project management.

Recognition and Certification
A wide skill set is needed to perform as an EST, Electronic Systems Technician, and DHTI, Digital Home Technology Integrator. Industry associations, product manufacturers, and independent companies are validating knowledge and skills with different kinds of recognition. These acknowledgements can inspire confidence from business partners and potential customers and can be a valuable differentiator in a highly competitive market. Both contractors and homeowners, along with home technology companies, desire to have a common frame of reference verifying the training and knowledge of technicians. Industry certifications exist to help identify qualified and competent people in the market.

Electronics Systems Technician Certification
Through a unique collaboration among some of the most respected industry associations and businesses, the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA, is working to build a qualified workforce with the necessary set of entry-level industry knowledge and best practices and to create career opportunities within a unified electronic systems industry. The candidate for this certification has six to nine months experience. The domains include electrical basics, tools, construction methods and materials, wiring and installation practices, standards, codes, and safety practices. Certification is indicated by the designation Certified-EST.

EST Advanced Certification by CEDIA
CEDIA, the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, at, is a nonprofit international trade association focusing on the planning and installation of residential electronic systems. The domains of the EST Advanced certification address the knowledge of a technician with five-years experience and include project supervision, codes and standards, installation and setup, and troubleshooting. An individual attaining this certification assists in the training and mentoring of new technicians, interacts with others, installs, troubleshoots, calibrates, programs remotes, works with subsystem integration and control, and ensures the installation meets the design specifications.

Digital Home Technology Integrator Certification by CompTIA
A collaboration between the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®) and the Computer Technology Industry Association defines the certification for the digital home technology integrator CEA-CompTIA DHTI+, It is the benchmark for today’s technology integrators assuring individuals with 18-24 months experience have the advanced skills and knowledge to configure, integrate, maintain, troubleshoot, and comprehend the basic design concepts of electronic and digital home systems. Domain topics include home networking, audio/video distribution, telephone/VoIP, security and surveillance, home control management, documentation, and troubleshooting.

Specialized Certifications
Industry-experienced individuals desire confirmation and recognition of knowledge and skills in specific areas. Numerous manufacturer certifications exist, along with several in the industry, including the CEDIA Designer certification. Domains covered on this certification exam include needs assessment, project design, design documentation, and design management, and it is assumed the candidate has at least five years of related field experience prior to taking the examination. CompTIA offers additional certifications focused on computers and IT, including A+, Network+, and Project+.

The Future is Bright
Research reveals the rapid growth of the digital home industry has created a skills gap. With the increased offerings of technology for the home and the rapid growth in the number of companies providing installation and services, training is essential. Certification validates the knowledge and skill set of the technician to install, maintain, and repair electronic and digital home electronic systems and can establish comfort and trust with the customer. With a trained and certified industry workforce, the market can be served accurately and efficiently. Everyone involved will benefit from training and industry-recognized certification.

by Helen Heneveld
Bedrock Learning, Inc.
4539 Hemlock Drive
Holland, MI 49423

This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Early Bird Discount ends April 29th for TM Forum’s Device Management Summit

Device Management Summit
June 24, 2008Santa Clara, USA

Early Bird Discount ends April 29th for TM Forum’s Device Management Summit

Attend this event to understand the latest issues in optimising end-to-end management, so that your customers can experience services working seamlessly on any device anywhere.

Keep informed so that your organization can quickly take advantage of the requirements of a new standard that is being discussed in the TM Forum and make the most of the time, cost and customer usability benefits that it will bring to help you stay ahead of the competition.

The Device Management Summit will bring all the players together in the Device Management value chain including service providers, device manufacturers, technology providers, integrators and consultants, application providers and corporates so that each member of the chain can see how this will benefit them as well as others.

Speakers will include representatives from:

• TM Forum
• Home Gateway Initiative
• Device Management Forum
• Coxhead Consulting
• Cisco
• Peak8Solutions
• DSL Forum
• OSGi Alliance
• Telcordia * newly confirmed *

The Device Management Summit is being run before the opening addresses of CONNECTIONS, produced by Parks Associates, June 24-26, 2008. By registering for the Device Management Summit, you will be able to attend the opening address on June 24 and the cocktail reception after, or make the most of your time in Santa Clara and attend both events.

The TM Forum is the world’s leading trade association focused on management of information, communications, and entertainment services. TM Forum helps its members by defining best practices, guidelines, and standards for operational processes and systems to enabling better automated processes by deploying operational systems that require lower integration effort across the service delivery chain.

Register Now!

The early bird discount for TM Forum’s Device Management Summit will expire on April 29nd, 2008. For the Conference Agenda and to register please visit the Device Management Summit website.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blockbuster - This is One Confused Company

by Kurt Scherf, Parks Associates

Well, Blockbuster has finally done it. After years of simply copying the Netflix business practices (the movie rental via mail model and the Internet video model), it's definitely done something that Netflix is probably never going to do!

The blogosphere is already lit up with the news that Blockbuster has made an unsolicited bid for Circuit City (the official announcement from Blockbuster is here). I see that opinions have already come from CNET's Don Reisinger and Henry Blodget, and neither of them is positive, unless both companies like being referred to as "bricks" (Blodget) and "irrelevant" and "foundering" (Reisinger on Blockbuster and Circuit City, respectively).

I find Blockbuster's actions to be confusing and inconsistent. In their last quarterly call, Blockbuster officials talked about how they were finally about ready to unveil the Movielink services through a consolidated Website. They also talked about the potential to go above and beyond what Netflix was offering via its Watch Now Internet video service, by examining the potential to not only provide Internet video as a free value-added feature, but to start experiementing with transactional models that could include both subscription and a la carte features. Despite its challenges, Blockbuster still has quite a bit of clout with Hollywood, so perhaps they could have gone the route of experimenting even with earlier day-and-date type of releases. Now, this sort of activity would be very sporadic, and it wouldn't open the floodgates of moving all content to earlier release windows. However, Blockbuster officials talked during the March earnings call about having an exclusive 60-day window offer film rentals from the Cablevision unit IFC Entertainment. Particularly with smaller and independent film studios, day-and-date is more likely to occur as artists and stuidios may want more of a viral launch of their films to generate buzz. Blockbuster certainly has that capabilitity with the Movielink service.

The letter from Blockbuster Chairman and CEO Phil Keyes to Circuit City's Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Philip J. Schoonover mentions the ability by both Blockbuster and Circuit City to "differentiate products in both Blockbuster and Circuit City stores by offering exclusive content and content-enabled devices." I question this strategy on a couple of fronts. First, is the exclusive content just going to be mostly the indepedent films, such as those brought ot the table from the IFC Entertainment arrangement? I don't see this as particularly interesting in a brick-and-mortar environment, but as I mentioned above, it could benefit an electronic distribution model where keeping the costs of distribution low and encouraging consumers to discover content that they otherwise may have not thought was relevant to them. Second, is Blockbuster really wanting to turn its rental stores into consumer electronics stores? I'm not saying that a successful business can't be built from this sort of business, but one must also look at the struggles of retailers such as Radio Shack and CompUSA (before its demise) in trying to become consumer electronics players. Both have struggled, and the struggles may be more related to corporate culture in addition to some of the obvious challenges (such as Radio Shack's limited shelf space to carry more than a couple of products).

Blockbuster paid pennies on the dollar for Movielink last August, so the potential merger with Circuit City and a retrenched focus on DVD sales and rentals isn't necessarily mean that they would have lost a ton of money (assuming that the online services development takes a backseat to a reorganization of the Circuit City retail business). With the end of the high-definition DVD format debate, Blu-ray players are certainly going to sell in greater numbers this year versus last (we've pegged stand-alone Blu-ray player sales in the U.S. in 2008 north of three million units, up from the measley one million units sold in 2007). Still, it seems like a curious time to be visiting the retail space, given the progression toward electronic movie delivery, Circuit City's struggles, and Blockbuster's rumored focus on developing a 'Net-connected set-top box to take advantage of its Movielink content. It just seems that now is the wrong time to be getting distracted by the potential pitfalls that a Circuit City merger will bring.

It's too bad that Blockbuster is (again) late to the game with looking to DVD rental and download kiosks as a way to reduce their retail overhead costs and begin delivering more convenient ways of acquiring movie content. To me, this seems like an area that offers much more upside than the acquisition of a struggling retailer. Company officials gave some commentary on their kiosk strategy during the March 6 earnings call, but there was very little detail provided. Given Blockbuster's well-known brand, I would have thought that they would want to be more active in exploring the rollout of things like video download/download-to-burn kiosks that they could set up not only in their own stores, but also grocery stores and pharmacies (a la Polar Frog Digital or TitleMatch). It looks like they're going to get left in the dust yet again.

And my final thought on this potential merger is to simply remember how badly the Circuit City and Digital Video Express (DIVX) self-destructing DVD business went back in the late 1990s. It just seems like these combinations between specific content and retail businesses just don't pan out the way originally they were orginally envisioned.

VoloMedia gets 3.5 Million

Leader Ventures provided $3.5 million of venture financing to VoloMedia, one of the leading providers of advertising, metrics, and reporting solutions for downloadable media: both video and audio.

Brian Steel, CEO, VoloMedia will speak at CONNECTIONS on June 25 at 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM on the session: Advertising: New Media and Digital Advertising: A Marriage of Necessity

Other confirmed speakers on this session include:
Pat Dunbar, Director of Mediaroom & Connected TV Advertising, Microsoft Corp.
Karen Feldman, Media and Entertainment Lead, IBM

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Practical Home Theater

Recently a friend asked for advice on setting up a home theater. I have been critically observing home theater demonstrations at trade shows and assumed an installation would be not be complicated. This is far from the case and is a challenge to the consumer electronics industry.

Lots of claims have been made about the benefits of digital television (DTV) and high-definition television (HDTV). Foremost are screen size and lines of horizontal resolution. Consumers are promised a greatly improved home theater experience. The reality is that DTV and HDTV are not always delivering the wow factor. In part this is caused by system complexity and compatibility problems between equipment and source material.

Many home theater problems stem from the traditional method of selling consumer electronics as self-contained boxed items. A home theater is composed of many devices including a display, speakers, DVD player, cable or satellite decoder, antenna, remote control unit, and cables. All these devices must be chosen to complement one another and must be connected properly, calibrated, and supplied with audio and video content. The content may be delivered via broadcast TV, satellite, cable, DVD (standard definition or HD), video cassette, or streamed from the Internet (IPTV – a technology under development).

Home theater components
The intent of a home theater is to create a space with attributes of a commercial movie theater. This requires a comfortable viewing environment with suitable seating and lighting. Until 1952, a movie theater and TV presented an experience that shared similar features: an image with a 4:3 (width-to-height) shape and monaural sound. With the introduction and overwhelming success of Cinerama in 1952, Hollywood discovered that multichannel sound and a wide screen could draw customers away from the TV and back into the theater.

The key components for a home theater are:

• A large rectangular room
• Multiple audio speakers
• A large display

A rectangular room offers better acoustics than other shapes. About 10-by-15 feet is a good size for a large display at the long end of the room. The display choices are:

• Plasma
• Rear projection
• Front projection

The CRT (picture tube) actually can reproduce motion and colors more accurately than LCD or plasma displays. However, a CRT is not a practical choice for a home theater because the largest commercially available picture-tube TV measures about 40 inches diagonally. Plasmas offer a bright picture with excellent motion rendition. However, they operate at a higher temperature with a shorter life and consume about 30% more energy than an LCD.

A rear-projection TV takes a small image, magnifies it, and bounces it via a mirror onto the back of a large display surface. The image quality when looking directly at the screen is good. The brightness falls off when the screen is viewed from the side of the room. Rear-projection TVs cost considerably less than the other display technologies.

The front projector is used primarily in offices and conference rooms for slide presentations. Until recently, these projectors were designed with computer interfaces using a multi-pin VGA connector. Also, they have been optimized to display bright images composed mostly of primary colors. Projectors intended for home theater are adjusted for full-spectrum color and have inputs typically found on a TV. I prefer a projector with a zoom lens that can be adjusted to fill a large screen. A 10x15-foot room could accommodate an eight- or nine-foot wide screen.

The resolutions of displays are measured by the number of horizontal lines. The three common options for DTV are:

• 480: standard-definition TV (SDTV)
• 720: high-definition TV (HDTV)
• 1080: high-definition TV (HDTV)

A 720-line or 1080-line HDTV can accept signals with any of these three resolutions and convert them to the capability of the display.

Home theater audio
The choices of audio systems for a home theater are primarily stereo and surround sound. Surround sound may include rear speakers and even speakers on the sides of the room. These additional speakers add realism to action movies such as the buzz of distant aircraft flying around in a dogfight.

The speakers built into TV sets are usually not the best quality. They are chosen to fit a confined space inside the TV cabinet. The most important external speakers that make a home theater sound less like a TV set and more like a theater are the front left, front right, and subwoofer. The subwoofer reinforces very low tones such as a door slam, banging on the floor, the very low notes from an organ, or an orchestra kettledrum (timpani). Since low notes do not convey spatial location well, the subwoofer may be placed anywhere in the front of the room. However, an additional speaker placed below the center of the screen carries the actors’ voices for enhanced spatial location.

The audio from HD sources includes multiple channels that are combined with a technique developed by Dolby Laboratories. An audio amplifier with built-in Dolby® Digital technology extracts the audio from the content and decodes the various sound tracks. Dolby Digital supports the speaker configurations. The arrangement of speakers is called “7.1 sound” because there are seven speakers and one subwoofer.

Matching the screen to the show or movie
The shape of the screen is an important ingredient in achieving a great viewing experience. TVs are sold in 4:3 (1.33:1) and 16:9 (1.78:1) aspect ratios (width-to-height). Within a few years, all new TV programs will be presented in the wider aspect ratio. This is the reason for the narrow horizontal bars seen at the top and bottom of conventional TVs when viewing many of the network shows that are already produced in the 16:9 format.

After widescreen movies were introduced in 1952, many studios and production companies invented proprietary widescreen formats. Some of these formats have familiar names like Cinemascope, Panavision, and Vista Vision. The screen shapes vary from 1.85:1 to 2.76:1 with the most popular being 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. Movie theaters accommodated these aspect ratios by projecting all movies on a screen with the same height and varying the width according to the movie aspect ratio.

In older theaters, curtains on the far left and right covered unused portions of the screen. For dramatic effect, theaters in the 1950s and 1960s would show a newsreel in 4:3 and then open the curtains wider (almost doubling the width) as the feature film began, usually with a trumpet fanfare.

The 16:9 format for the HDTV display was selected as a compromise to accommodate limitations in fabricating wide CRTs. Widescreen movies on an HDTV are displayed to fill the width of the screen with black bars on the top and bottom. Conventional TV (analog 4:3 TV) and old movies need bars on the sides. Some TVs electronically stretch images to fill the screen. However, this distorts the actors and objects so they look bloated.

The imaging circuits in most HDTV projectors display the picture with 720 horizontal lines. (1080-line projectors are available for about double the price.) A widescreen movie matted with horizontal black bars on the top and bottom for an HDTV display is wasting up to one third of the available scan lines and picture brightness as illustrated in Figure 3. The resulting images are displayed with resolutions that are comparable to standard-definition TV!

To recreate the optimal theater experience at home requires a screen with the widest aspect ratio of any movie to be viewed. Some projector manufacturers have developed high-end products designed for 2.35:1 screens to maximize resolution for widescreen movies. Bars appear on the left and right when viewing 1:85:1 movies, 16:9 HDTV, or 4:3 old movies and analog TV programs.

Home theater on a budget

I find that a wide-format, standard-definition DVD movie on a large screen with two-channel stereo sound and a subwoofer (a “2.1 sound system”) provides a good viewing experience. Therefore, consumers with a limited budget might choose an SDTV front projector and 2.1 sound to create a home theater that can be quite impressive even at standard definition resolution. With more funds, the customer can upgrade to an HDTV projector and additional speakers for surround sound.

Home theater prices have been falling while quality is improving. Good equipment is available even at warehouse stores. However, consumers can make mistakes when choosing compatible equipment and connectors. Retailers should educate the sales staff on recommending systems, not just individual boxes. This will benefit consumers and generate increased sales of profitable peripheral equipment.

© Copyright 2008 Kenneth P. Wacks

Dr. Kenneth Wacks has been a pioneer in establishing the home systems industry and a management advisor to more than 100 companies and utilities worldwide. Corporate managers depend on Dr. Wacks to identify business trends with clear and practical advice on business development strategies in home and building systems. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) chose Dr. Wacks to chair the international committee (ISO/IEC) responsible for world standards in home systems. For more information, please visit

by Kenneth Wacks, Ph.D.
Home Systems Consultant
Tel: 781 662-6211
Fax: 781 665-4311

This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Over 70 Digital Living Experts to Speak at CONNECTIONS™

Parks Associates and CEA® today announced the preliminary lineup of executives speaking at CONNECTIONS™: The Digital Living Conference & Showcase. More than 70 speakers are confirmed to speak at the executive conference, June 24-26, 2008, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

“CONNECTIONS™ is proud to announce our initial speakers for the conference,” said Elizabeth Parks, VP, Parks Associates. “This diverse group of leaders will discuss new business models and solutions for all areas of digital living, making CONNECTIONS™ a unique networking and learning event critical to all business and strategy managers.”

To understand the global issues regarding television services, a key topic at the event, download the new Parks Associates white paper TV Services in Europe: Update and Outlook from the CONNECTIONS™ website. Parks Associates analysts moderate all CONNECTIONS™ sessions, bringing expert focus on emerging solutions in digital living:

• IPTV and “TV 2.0”
• Service Providers and New Strategies
• Consumer Storage
• Mobile Applications and Content
• Social and Digital Media
• Home and Lifestyle Management – Energy, Health, Safety & Security


• Amy Banse, President, Comcast Interactive Media
• Rebecca Jacoby, SVP & CIO, Cisco Systems, Inc.
• Paul Liao, CTO, Panasonic North America
• Phil McKinney, VP & CTO, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard


• Andy Addis, EVP, Marketing, Hillcrest Labs
• Saul Berman, Media & Entertainment, Global & Americas Strategy Leader, IBM Global Business Services
• Scott Birnbaum, VP, Samsung LCD Business
• Stephen Blum, President, Tellus Venture Associates
• Richard Bullwinkle, Chief Evangelist, Macrovision
• Patrick Cosson, VP, Marketing, VUDU
• Nick Desai, CEO, Juice Wireless
• Pat Dunbar, Director, Mediaroom & Connected TV Advertising, Microsoft Corp.
• Mike Ehlenberger, VP, North America Channel Sales, Actiontec
• Gil Eyal, CEO, Enure Networks
• Thierry Fautier, Director, Telco Solutions, Harmonic Inc.
• Karen Feldman, Media and Entertainment Lead, IBM
• Meredith Flynn-Ripley, CEO, Integra5
• Rob Gelphman, Chair, Marketing Work Group, MoCA™
• John Gildred, President, SyncTV
• Chano Gomez, VP, Marketing, DS2
• Marc Goodman, Director, Alcatel-Lucent
• Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Grallert, Managing Director, Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, HHI
• Ken Haase, Sr. Director, Product Line Management, Motorola
• Barry Haaser, Senior Director, LonWorks Infrastructure Business, Echelon Corporation Karen Hanley, Senior Director, Marketing & Membership, Wi-Fi Alliance
• Matt Harrison, GM, Medical Business Unit, Texas Instruments
• Brian Henrichs, VP, Business Development, Actiontec Electronics
• David Henry, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Home Products, NETGEAR
• Bill Holmes, VP, Business Development and Strategic Marketing, DivX, Inc.
• Ben Huang, Director, Product Management and Marketing, Microsoft TV
• Amit Jain, VP and GM, CDMA Femtocell Business Unit, Airvana
• Jim Jones, Managing Director, Scale Venture Partners
• Bradley A. Kayton, COO, 4HomeMedia
• Samir Khazaka, Senior Director, Technical Marketing, Qualcomm
• Lou Lenzi, SVP, AudioVox
• Ellis Lindsay, Director, Strategy, Americas, Alcatel-Lucent
• Martin Lindsay, Sr. Business Dev. Mgr., Automotive Entertainment, Bowers & Wilkins
• Joy Marcus, GM, US, Dailymotion
• Avner Matmor, CEO, Yitran Communications Ltd.
• Fred McIntyre, SVP, AOL Video, AOL
• Kevin Meagher, CEO, Intamac Systems
• Eric Miller, VP, Global Software, Itron
• Jeff Miller, President and CEO, ICTV, Inc.
• Patricia Nakache, General Partner, Trinity Ventures
• Tim Napoleon, Chief Strategist, Media & Entertainment, Akamai Technologies
• Ashwin Navin, President and Co-founder, BitTorrent, Inc.
• Cynthia Pacheco, GM, Philips Telehealth Solutions, Philips Home Healthcare Solutions
• Buno Pati, Co-Founder and CEO, Building B
• Doug Pepper, Partner, InterWest Partners
• Michael Peveler, VP, Corporate Development, AMX
• Sterling Pratz, CEO, Autonet Mobile
• Safi Qureshey, CEO and President, Quartics
• Len Rand, Managing Director, Granite Ventures
• Ty Roberts, CTO, Gracenote
• Robert Rodenbucher, Director, Business Development, AwoX
• Tushar Saxena, Director, Technology, Verizon
• Rick Schwartz, Product Manager, Consumer Software, PacketVideo
• Loren Shade, VP, Marketing, Allegro Software Development Corporation
• Tony Shakib, CEO & President, Zensys
• Steve Shannon, EVP & GM, Product Development, Gemstar-TV Guide
• Greg Smith, VP, Marketing and Business Development WW, Movea, Inc.
• Singu Srinivas, President, HiWired
• Reuben Steiger, CEO, Millions of Us LLC
• Brian Steel, CEO, VoloMedia
• Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, Digital Media, VentureBeat
• Ryan Tykwinski, Director, Home Entertainment Experience, Best Buy
• Yoav Tzruya, CMO, Exent Technologies
• HervĂ© Utheza, VP & GM, TV Properties, ORB Networks
• Bruce Watkins, Co-Founder and President/COO, Pulse~LINK, Inc.
• Will West, CEO, Control4
• David Whitlinger, Director, Health Care Device Standards and Interoperability, Continua Health Alliance / Intel Digital Health Group
• Rusty Williams, SVP, Social Media Product Planning, Prospero Technologies, LLC
• Michael Wilson, CEO, Makena Technologies
• Daniel Wong, Director, Product Management, D-Link
• Russell Zack, VP, Product Management, Anystream


• Bill Ablondi, Director, Home Systems Research, Parks Associates
• John Barrett, Director, Research, Parks Associates
• Michael Cai, Director, Broadband & Gaming, Parks Associates
• Jayant Dasari, Analyst, Parks Associates
• Tricia Parks, CEO, Parks Associates
• Kurt Scherf, VP, Principal Analyst, Parks Associates
• Stuart Sikes, President, Parks Associates
• Harry Wang, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates

To view the updated speaker list and agenda, click here:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Intamac wins prestigious European Business Awards

Intamac wins prestigious European Business Awards -
Business Innovation of the Year, 2008 …plus two Ruban d’Honneur’s Ribbons…

Intamac Systems, the specialists in home and security monitoring solutions has won the European Business Awards - ‘Business Innovation of the Year Award’. It also received two Ruban d’Honneurs ribbons, for Business Innovation and Entrepreneur of the Year. The award ceremony was held in Paris on 11 March 2008.

The European Business Awards was set up to recognise and reward excellence, best practice and innovation in companies across the 27 EU member states. It serves to showcase Europe’s most successful business achievements.

Intamac have utilised the World Wide Web to revolutionise the capabilities and reduce the cost of home monitoring and security systems. The Intamac solution offers a unique combination of innovative technology, practical purpose and ease of use. In light of this, the company has already secured major contracts with large international players, including BT, and Australia and New Zealand’s largest general insurer, IAG. Intamac’s technology has also been adopted in a number of high street products by companies such as Linksys and Yale.

European Business Awards CEO Adrian Tripp said, “Intamac has the potential to completely shakeup the traditional home security industry. It is providing some very strong businesses not presently in the home security market with excellent new technologies and business models to challenge the existing players.” Intamac was selected over a shortlist of ten International businesses such as British Telecom, Deutsche Post and Daimler AG.

Intamac’s CEO and founder, Kevin Meagher commented, “We are delighted to win the Business Innovation of the Year Award. It demonstrates that our work in providing innovative monitoring solutions at an affordable price is being recognised outside the UK. We are an Innovation led company, which is constantly driving for growth and has a strong customer focus. We are honored to have won this renowned award against such strong global competition”.

Intamac’s services are currently available through global partners such as Cisco, BT, Yale and IAG, and through leading retailers such as Homebase and PC World or by visiting

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Choice of Storage Media for Multimedia Players

by Harry Wang, Sr. Analyst, Parks Associates

Unlike in the digital audio player market, the fight between NAND flash and hard-disk drive (HDD) on the PMP platform is far from over. The 1.8-inch HDD still has a firm grip on the PMP category that requires storage capacity of 20 Gigabyte or higher due to the cost per byte advantage over NAND flash. Our consumer survey indicated that among PMP owners, hard drive-powered devices still account for a slight majority of the ownership. On the other hand, the micro-drive segment (1-inch or the 0.85-inch HDD), which features a capacity ranging between 4-12 GB, has been hit hard by the NAND flash as its cost-per-byte lead—which it enjoyed during 2003-2005—has dissipated, and NAND flash’s merits (durability, low power consumption, and light-weight) earn it the preferred status for the low storage PMP category.

1.8-inch HDD makers, mainly Toshiba, Hitachi, Seagate, and newcomer Samsung, are fully aware of the threat the NAND flash is posing to their HDD business for portable CE market. Therefore, their battle strategies include:

1) Maintain the cost advantage by enhancing capacity at the same cost. In September 2007, Toshiba launched two new 1.8-inch HDD models: one with 80 GB storage using a single platter, and the other doubling the capacity using two platters. Samsung made a similar announcement two weeks earlier.

2) Dress up the HDD with features that make it slimmer, more energy efficient, and more durable. For instance, the 60GB, 1.8-inch HDD from Samsung or Seagate is measured at only 5mm (0.2-inch) thin. The latest Toshiba 160GB model consumes 0.32 watt of power in idle condition, compared with the 1.5-watts industry average. And Seagate has long been touting its G-force technology, an anti-shock feature that protects the drive by moving the heads off the platter when the device is powered off, thus during a drop, no parts make contact with the media inside the drive. All of these features are aimed at keeping HDD as a viable option for portable device manufacturers.

3) Support CE-ATA, a portable CE-friendly storage interface. The new interface standard replaces the Serial ATA, an interface well-suited for mainstream computing applications that emphasize faster data transfer rates but care less about power consumption. CE-ATA, on the other hand, addresses well the key challenges of a PMP design: cost-effective integration and maximum power efficiency. The CE-ATA Specification 1.0 was finalized in March 2005. Since then, Hitachi has been a strong promoter of the new standard; Seagate has also conformed to the standard in its latest 1.8-inch HDD models. But Toshiba and Samsung support both the CE-ATA and the legacy PATA interfaces on their 1.8-inch drives.

On the other side of the aisle, flash memory manufacturers are gearing up their production capacity and re-drawing the roadmap to further challenge the HDD’s role in the market for portable entertainment devices. According to the theory first publicized in 2002 by Dr. Chang Gyu Hwang, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor division, flash can double its density growth every 12 months. Like the famous Moore’s Law, the prediction has worked out quite well over the last five years as NAND flash storage capacity grew from 256 MB in 2002 to 16 GB in 2007. Apple has already incorporated the 16GB NAND flash in its latest iPod Nano models. If the theory continues to hold, the next milestone will be 32 GB in early 2008. It will be just a matter of time before the manufacturers to ramp up production and bring the cost down to a market-acceptable level. Samsung debut the world’s first 32GB flash card in September 2006, followed by SanDisk in January 2007. And in early 2008, Apple released its latest iPod Touch with 32GB flash memory—just what we have predicted for this capacity flash memory to go mainstream.. Looking ahead, flash is expected to reach 60GB or higher during the 2009-2010 timeframe, at which point it will begin to take away the medium-storage PMP market share from the 1.8-inch HDD manufacturers. Companies that do not have assets in the flash business have come to grips with such a trend. Seagate, for instance, has not only produced hybrid drives mixing both flash and HDD, but also announced plan in September 2007 to make flash-based, solid-state disks from 2008, a measure to hedge its bets in the consumer electronic market, in our analysis.

This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Speakers Announced for MoCA's Super Session: Entertaining Home Connectivity

This panel shares their experiences and prognostications and entertains questions from the audience regarding the consumer environment for HD video distribution in and around the home. Confirmed participants include:

Mike Ehlenberger, VP, North America Channel Sales, Actiontec
David Henry, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Home Products, NETGEAR
Daniel Wong, Director, Product Management, D-Link
Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, Digital Media, VentureBeat
Ryan Tykwinski, Director, Home Entertainment Experience, Best Buy

This session will be moderated by:
Rob Gelphman, Chair, Marketing Work Group, MoCA

Triggers & Inhibitors for CE Purchases

New research from Parks Associates examines the decision-making process of today's consumers and key factors that trigger or inhibit purchasing. Price isn't the only important factor, especially as people buy more fun, high-tech devices such as gaming consoles, HD DVD players, photo printers, etc.

The Changing Consumer Electronics Purchase Process survey provides greater definition and measurement of purchase intentions as well as key barriers to technology adoption. The analysis measures the impact of information resources and word-of-mouth endorsements, explains the research and evaluation steps for a product purchase, and links the purchase decision steps into an evaluative metric that identifies critical steps.

Results of the survey will be highlighted at the CONNECTIONS Conference and CONNECTIONS Europe Summit Series.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Panelists from Best Buy, NETGEAR, D-Link, Actiontec, VentureBeat to discuss entertainment networking in special MoCA™ session at CONNECTIONS™

MoCA’s super session, “Entertaining Home Connectivity,” will feature panelists from leading CE vendors NETGEAR, D-Link, and Actiontec Electronics and the number-one retailer Best Buy as well as Dean Takahashi, lead writer for digital media at VentureBeat, a blog on venture capital and start-ups. These experts in retail and consumer electronics will share their experiences and predictions for the entertainment networking market. They will also take questions from the audience regarding the consumer environment for HD video distribution in and around the home.

“In-store purchases accounted for two-thirds of home networking purchases made in 2007,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president, principal analyst, Parks Associates. “With about one-third of U.S. households now with a network, the critical next stage will include upgrades and enhancements. How well the retail channel educates consumers and showcases connected home solutions will be a critical component of the success of next-generation home networking solutions.”